The Latin American leg of the ‘Voyage of Dialogue and Discovery’ began last week in Mexico City, one of the world’s most populated cities. Mexico is winning on the football field, and the surge of nationalism and pride accompanying their team’s success is palpable. But beyond the flag flying and painted faces of green, white and red, are Mexicans ready to take the next steps as a people, ‘from patriotism to citizenship’ to claim their history, take responsibility for their challenges and become the leaders in world they should be? The brief, but fruitful, three-day visit of the Gandhi travelling team brought such questions to the surface, and brought many of those who would answer ‘yes!’ together, to examine how this could happen.
Shortly after arrival, Professor Gandhi was presented with an award from The Agora Institute of Strategic Thinking (IPEA) for his exemplary leadership and example. He challenged the group of rising business and political leaders to consider that the moral and spiritual factor in leadership was even more critical than economic and strategic factors. When asked how to decide which road to take in pursuing their careers, Prof Gandhi suggested this: ‘Think of the most vulnerable person you know and ask yourself, will the road I’m choosing strengthen that person or not?’
The following morning the Gandhis and members of the local and travelling teams were welcomed to the residence of the Indian ambassador to Mexico, HE Mr Dinesh Kumar Jain, who with his wife shared of their love for Mexico and its people. Their care was accompanied by concern though, and Ambassador Jain questioned if there was an better way to address the threat of the drug cartels than by the current crack down by President Calderon. Is there a place, he asked, for ‘the application of Gandhian non-violence in a circle of violence’ like the one provoked by brutal criminal behavior? A spirited and thoughtful discussion ensued and when one of the local team leaders, Rodrigo Martinez-Romero, proposed that the security factor goes far beyond the government’s response with police and army forces, this resonated with the group. The ambassador concluded that his answer might lie in the average citizen taking more personal responsibility for the underlying problems the country faces and thereby becoming more involved in creating a solution, not just lamenting the situation as it is.
The rest of the day was spent on the southern campus of the University TEC de Monterrey. Professor Gandhi and members of the travelling team spoke on the building blocks of ‘Just and Sustainable Democracy’ to a group of students and professors, which was simulcast to all of the University's 32 campuses where similar groups gathered to watch the live broadcast. Reflecting on his recent visit to South Africa, Prof Gandhi shared of the incredible challenges that that country still faces, so many years after the end of apartheid. It seems, he suggested, that ‘great changes in structure are not enough. There is something else that must take place in the people themselves. The question is, what is that something else?’ One such shift in perspective might come, he proposed, from learning to live to make the other great, as opposed to focusing on one’s own success.
Over 100 people participated in an afternoon ‘World Café’ discussion, addressing similar questions of what can be done at the personal level to begin to create change in Mexico. The gathering was accompanied by a beautiful presentation of indigenous music by Rafael Bejarano, and by the creation of an original painting by Andrea Ehrenberg inspired by the afternoon of dialogue, and given to the Gandhis in gratitude for travelling to Mexico.
Day two began with smaller and very rich dialogue at the Santa Fe Campus of TEC de Monterrey. Professor Gandhi invited several of the Mexican leaders who were present, who came from all walks of life – business, government, religious, education, the non-profit sector – to share what they felt Mexico's greatest challenges and strengths were, and their hopes for what changes may be brought about in the coming years. In the dialogue that followed, problems raised such as corruption, drug violence, apathy, lack of values, and inequality, were met with emerging themes of personal responsibility, creative partnerships, trust, the need for recognizing inherent equality and potential before trying to create any changes, and perhaps especially the sense that Mexicans must rediscover and reclaim who they are, and trust that their own identity holds the keys to their future. Professor Gandhi concluded the event by asserting his conviction that Mexico, like India, has a very important role to play in the world in providing a new kind of leadership that could balance that of the United States and European powers.
In the afternoon, Professor Gandhi addressed members of the student body and invited guests.
The last day in Mexico began with a visit to the Mahatma Gandhi statue with the Indian Ambassador, to lay flowers and pay respects to Prof. Gandhi’s grandfather. A visit to the Museum of Anthropology provided insights into Mexican history and culture, guided by the Museum’s Director.
The travelling and local teams gathered to reflect on the 72 hours they’d shared in Mexico City, feeling grateful for all that was learned and also that a space was created for a deeper level of sharing, trust and connection amongst the Mexican participants themselves. Seeds have been planted and IofC will work to continue to nurture and support the people on the ground in Mexico, in any way possible.
We also thank a sister organization, SiKanda, which was created in Mexico by former Action For Life participant José Carlos León and his fiancée Aurelia Annino. SiKanda and its group of volunteers contributed to make this visit a reality and spread the word about the importance of Initiatives of Change in Mexico.